People around town know Tony Brown by his alter ego, Grand Groove: DJ -- spinner of most things tasteful. Over the past couple of years, he's been biding his nighttime hours entertaining groove fanatics at local DJ-hosted club happenings and diners at various downtown Spokane restaurants (like Quinn's and Mizuna). This Saturday, from 9 am to 4 pm, he's got a new gig -- in the parking lot of The Shop coffeehouse on South Perry. And aside from records being spun, there will be hundreds -- if not thousands -- of vinyl slabs being exchanged for different vinyl slabs and for cash. That's right, kids, it's a genuine record swap -- the likes of which has not been experienced in Spokane in years.
"It's kind of a supplement to the KPBX sale, which is fine," says Brown. "But that's just kind of their deal and not really an open forum. At this one, anybody can set up."
At the first annual Music and Audio Swap you can buy, sell or trade your music (on any format this side of 8-tracks: CD, LP, cassette) as well as pretty much anything that produces, propagates or transmits music: musical instruments, along with home, PA and production audio gear. It's Brown's baby -- born, he says, out of his passion for vinyl and the culture that surrounds it.
"There used to be record swaps in Spokane all the time," he notes. "But there hasn't been one forever. That's another reason I decided to do one. It's filling a void."
Contrary to popular belief, vinyl records (that perfectly wonderful method of sound reproduction nearly a century old) did not go quietly into that long night when confronted by the glare of the digital invasion. CDs may be today's recorded music media of choice among the masses, but vinyl LPs have held their own against repeated and vehement eradication attempts, and now occupy an admittedly small but distinct and robust portion of the market. It's a niche industry, catering to DJs (who swear by the feel of vinyl under their fingers), audio connoisseurs (who prefer the analog warmth of LPs to the harsh, icy precision of CDs) and indie rockers (who, among other reasons, dig the counter-culture allure of abandoned technology). To service these needs, many independent and even some major labels continue to produce limited vinyl pressings of select new releases. Some in colors. Some in super-premium vinyl. All with big, lovely 12" X 12" artwork and the thrill of analog.
Tables for dealers at the music swap went for just $5 (sorry, the deadline for table reservation has passed). Brown says that anyone with something sound-related they want to pick up or get rid of should plan on attending.
"And if they bring their own table, it's free -- they can just set up. This is something I want everybody to come to. I don't care if a guy is weeding out his collection or his wife's bugging him to get those records out of the basement, you know, I want anybody who has five CDs to get rid of to come up there."
Word to dealers: get there early to snag those shady spots. As you no doubt already know, vinyl doesn't hold up too well in direct sunlight.
"Yeah," he laughs, "people should definitely bring their own cover or a little tent or something. You know, I just want it to be loose and open and fun. It's gonna be a big music garage sale."
Sonic Youth -- Yet another "Fest" will be buzzing into downtown this weekend. This time it's one for the kids, though -- sort of. BOBfest is a local battle of the bands for junior high- and high school-age adolescents vying for a shot at the big time. As usual, the musical onslaught that will determine this year's BOBfest champion will be staged in the Clock Tower Meadow of Riverfront Park. Twelve bands will be pulling out the stops on the big, portable stage at this always high-energy event.
It's no secret that the all-ages scene in Spokane has had a less-than-exemplary relationship with the city (and the Spokane Police Department in particular). However, Wendy Acosta, who handles organizational duties on the city's end of BOBfest, really sees that trend changing.
"The Police Department realizes we have a teen division, with kids who are involved and will go to the mat for what they believe in." In this case, it's a day of rock 'n' roll, refreshingly devoid of troublemaking teens and over-zealous officers. Acosta said, "Officers are learning that it's really easy to work with the all-ages scene."
If the hype surrounding this year's installment is any indicator, things are on the upswing for the kids, and a symbiosis of sorts has begun. Some familiar faces are going to be the backdrop for the event, along with a few new additions to the festivities. Hoffman's Music has once again graciously donated equipment, personnel and (most important) time to this showcase of young local talent. One of the exciting new features of BOBfest this year is a compilation CD, featuring 10 of the 12 bands that are on the bill. Mike Hermanson of College Road Recording donated the upfront cost to track one song for each band and to press enough copies to sell at the show. If you like what you see and hear, you can take it home with you and support local music at the same time. Bands scheduled to play are Malfunction, Municipal Source, Hubris Youth, Lucia's Grey Dot, Derby, Javelin, Breaking Cloud, Favorite Color Blue, Black Hand, Hijacked Royalty and Thalamos.
One of the dark-horse entrants to the contest is Favorite Color Blue. This three-piece hails from the Valley and is looking to make their mark at BOBfest. Guitarist and vocalist Pat McHenry spoke with me minutes before his graduation ceremonies about the upcoming contest: "We're hoping by playing at BOBfest, club owners will see us, take notice and kind of know our name."
The band has been seriously writing for a couple of years now. All the guys are 18 and are looking to take their music to the next level. The biggest show they've played thus far was a seven-song set at their high school. McHenry says the BOBfest gig should prove to be a bit more rocking.
"We play vocal- and drum-driven punk pop," he says, adding with a laugh, "and I try to do something interesting with the melodies."
How Hard is Your Heart? -- During the almost 30 years that the Wilson sisters, Ann and Nancy, have been the creative furnace behind Heart, this Northwest franchise has evolved from a gritty hard rock band with a distinct Led Zeppelin fixation to a glossy middle-of-the-road pop group with a penchant for over-blown production. Local fans will have a chance to catch up to the band this Friday night as Heart makes an appearance at the Greyhound Park & amp; Event Center in Post Falls. It's an outdoor concert (bring your blankets and lawn chairs) with food and beverages available on-site.
Heart was initially formed by three guys -- guitarist brothers Mike and Roger Fisher and bassist Steve Fossen -- in the late '60s. Ann Wilson signed on as vocalist in 1970 while Nancy -- who had briefly pursued a career as a folk singer -- joined in 1974. Keyboardist Howard Leese and drummer Michael Derosier completed the early lineup in time for the recording and subsequent release of the band's debut album, 1975's Dreamboat Annie. And the hits that we all know and love came rolling out: "Crazy on You," "Magic Man" and "Barracuda" (from the band's second album, Little Queen).
It was very obvious very early on that the Wilsons (as women rockers in a male-dominated genre) were the real stars of Heart -- a notion that was reinforced by Ann's powerful, expressive pipes and Nancy's formidable fretwork.
But as the original founders and supporting players bowed out, were replaced and -- more significantly -- as '70s hard rock acquiesced to punk, new wave and pop metal, Heart chose to tone down the crunch and grit of their early sound in favor of synthesizers and slick production values. Even as they lost their rock appeal, however, they attracted more fans than ever before with the big, densely orchestrated power ballads ("What About Love?," "Never," "These Dreams," "Who Will You Run To?" and "All I Want to Do Is Make Love to You") that sustained them as an FM radio force well into the '90s -- and, as VH-1's Behind the Music icons, into the 21st century.